Solar Blob Attacks the Earth!

A great eruption known as a coronal mass ejection rattled nerves but did little harm

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NASA

In this 2011 photograph, the sun unleashes a large flare, a type of coronal mass ejection.

On January 13, the National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center issued a scary-sounding news flash. “ALERT,” it said. “Type IV Radio Emission.” If that was too arcane-sounding to get you spooked, there was this detail that followed: type IV emissions usually result from a major eruption on the Sun.

That is exactly what had happened. The Sun is currently entering the peak of its 11-year cycle of magnetic activity. When that happens — the actual peak comes in 2013 — its surface becomes blotchy with sunspots, its luminosity grows fractionally brighter, and it sends giant flares up in sweeping arcs above the solar atmosphere. Every so often, it also ejects a blob of hot, charged particles speeding into space.

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Typically, we don’t have much to fear from these kinds of events, but the January 13 blob, known more formally as a coronal mass ejection, or CME, was blasted more or less directly toward Earth, at about a million m.p.h. (1.6 million k/h). In principle, that could have led to a disaster. When a mass of charged particles slams into our planet’s magnetic field, it can send jolts of electromagnetic energy shooting in all directions, causing what’s known as a geomagnetic storm that can threaten communications satellites and radio transmissions, and even trigger blackouts like the one that struck Quebec in 1989 when a CME zapped a regional power grid. On the plus side, geomagnetic storms also tend to trigger amazing displays of the Aurora Borealis — the Northern Lights, to you and me. A CME that passed by last spring, for example, seems to have had that effect.

But like breathless warnings of wintertime blizzards that turn out to be mere flurries, this CME was something of a dud. “We’re not going to be in for a big disturbance,” the Space Weather Prediction Center’s Norm Cohen told MSNBC shortly after the eruption was detected.

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Sure enough, when the blob finally arrived on Thursday after covering the 93 million miles (150 million km) between Sun and Earth, the disruption was minimal. “Weak power grid fluctuations may occur,” read that day’s alert. “Minor impact on satellite operations possible.”

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We hadn’t exactly dodged the bullet; instead, the bullet turned out to be made of rubber. The Sun will be crackling with magnetic storms for many months to come, however and may spawn more CMEs or even the fantastic fiery tempests known as solar tornados. The pyrotechnics, in other words, are hardly over — and neither is the danger.

(More: An All Wet Meteorite Arrives From Mars)

20 comments
edkollin
edkollin

Human CO2 causes sunspots and solar flares?. But hey since I am a tea party racist who can't think on my own and only the only things I ever write are Fox news and oil company talking points what would I know?. I think not every problem or weather event is caused by human produced CO2 and think most climate change is not  related  to human produced CO2. But I am a nice guy who really really wants to be an enlightened progressive thinker. Where is the  reeducation camp closest to Long Island?

ElsaZhang
ElsaZhang

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

IanMcLeod
IanMcLeod

Fake, not in the bible.  Heathen scum

mawayne638
mawayne638

A solar event the size of the one in the 1850s would kill our power grids for weeks, possibly months.

Thats not regional, that is planet-wide. Imagine life without electricity throughout the country for week or months.

Show of hands!..........Should we take precautions?

Because we havent yet.

Mskinner39
Mskinner39

I enjoy reading about what is happening outside of our Earth. One of my favorite websites to go to is spaceweather.com. Any one interested in solar flares would be interested in this website. Every day they post something new about what is going on out there! It is a fun place for me to go to when I want to see cool things.

BuckF8knit
BuckF8knit

NASA claimed that reentry from the moon causes temperatures that are 100,000 degrees, or 10 times hotter than the sun. NASA also claimed that their space suits could stop micro-meteors traveling at 64,000 mph. These are accurate and true statements by NASA.... So what other BS will NASA give us?

davej1s
davej1s

@mawayne638  

Well now, that can't happen 'cause this is Murican and we got guns and Jesus lives here.

DavidKelly
DavidKelly

@mawayne638 If the power was out for months globally, it would be the end of modern civilization. Gov'ts and social order would have collapsed by the time they got the lights back on. It'd be post-Katrina NO on a global scale.

johnqueuepubliq
johnqueuepubliq

@BuckF8knit this guy is the old nasarthebest from foxnews before they became too embarrassed to allow commenting. he literally believes that the earth is the center of the universe and that the heliocentric model of the solar system is the work of the devil. all signs of serious mental problems.  

subliminaut
subliminaut

@BuckF8knit Buck is speaking about an educational pamphlet from the 60s that contained a misprint. I see the claim pop up from time to time among anti-sciencers who think the earth is flat and dinosaurs are tricks of Satan.

JohnCarlon
JohnCarlon

@BuckF8knitYou couldn't be more miss informed if you tried. The corona of the sun reaches up into the millions of kelvins or to the lay person, 1,799,540.3ºF (1 million K). The Core of the sun is around 15 million K.

DaleBartholomew
DaleBartholomew

@BuckF8knit A quick Google search returned a number of articles include this information: "The temperature on the CM's surface climbed up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, but the heat shields protected the inner structure of the CM. The heat shield was ablative, which means that it was designed to melt and erode away from the CM as it heated up. From the ground, it would look as if the CM had caught on fire during its descent. In reality, the ablative covering is what kept the astronauts inside the CM safe -- the material diverted heat away as it vaporized." http://science.howstuffworks.com/apollo-spacecraft7.htm. Obvious to me that the only BS here is from BuckF8knit.

cpinfl
cpinfl

If the statements are accurate and true, then what exactly is your problem with them? Also, please site your source for these statements so that we know you are not just speaking from your lower orifice.

BuckF8knit
BuckF8knit

@johnqueuepubliq @BuckF8knit Why I must meet this nasarthebest fella. I heard he single handily shut down Foxnews comments while exposing NASA's fakery from A to Z. I understand that no one could refute his claims and that he burned everyone up with factual evidence, i.e. true science. He must be an 'outcast' who escaped NASA's dupery......

BuckF8knit
BuckF8knit

@subliminaut @BuckF8knit "Educational pamphlet" my eye. NASA engraved it in black and white and even extrapolated on said statement. The fakery of 'human spaceflight', directed by Hitlers NAZI scientists who were 'deployed' to the USSR and the US of A after the war, went from there. And now we have computerized pics of 'exploding stars' via the Hubble, which is also a fraud as is the International Fake Station which is nothing but an orbital satellite.

BTW, Earth is round and dinosaurs 'drowned' in super volcanic eruptions. Satan had nothing to do with their demise, but he does have quite a bit with defrauding the masses with evolution, esp. 'astro-evolution' thanks to NASA's outlandish claims.

BuckF8knit
BuckF8knit

@DaleBartholomew @BuckF8knit Dale, you hit the nail on the head. "5k degrees" is a helluva lot less than 100,000 degrees as NASA stated now isn't it? At hypersonic 25,000 mph, or 50 times the velocity of a jumbo-jet, indeed you will streak across the sky in a mere blink and burn-up just like a meteor. This is where C-130's were deployed for 'survival' of such a meteoric inferno. So actually, Buck tells the vaporizing truth of the matter, while NASA et al. continues to 'ride' on their preposterous BS.

BuckF8knit
BuckF8knit

@cpinfl The 'problem' with such statements is their level of absurdity. Yet back in the 60's when NASA and the Soviets were in the midst of coordinating their lunar fakes, it's quite obvious that they were playing on everyone's wide-eyed 'impression' surrounding 'human spaceflight'. Of course it 'worked' for most.